October 04 2011 08:32AM
Pre-season has come to an end for the Calgary Flames. With quite a few of the veterans nursing the odd injury here and there, it gave the rookies some good playing time and the coaching staff a good look at who might be ready for the NHL and who still needed... a little work. After two weeks of routine cuts the Flames announced on Friday that Lance Bouma and Paul Byron would be assigned to Abbotsford, leaving Jordan Henry, Derek Smith and pre-season standout Roman Horak still with the parent club. An interesting end to training camp because despite a 3-3 record for the Flames, a lot of fans are rejoicing in the news out of New York, where the Rangers demoted Tim Erixon... Oh yeah! THAT guy!
With the Flames now off until the season opener on October 8th, the team headed out to Banff for some team building and as Alex Tanguay said, a chance to incorporate the new players on the club, in an attempt to recreate that "atmosphere that was around here from Christmas on last year." Pretty good thinking on the part of the team, as it will be imperative that they get off to a good start in October. There have been a lot of changes and some players are going to be taking on different roles than they are used to, important roles. Others are going to be asked to maintain the role they served last season, the focus for them, will be consistency.
Olli Jokinen is one of those embracing a new role in his career. Often referred to as 'swooper', Olli was asked (in a way that more resembled being told, by Brent Sutter) that he needed to change, literally, the direction of his game. Not known for being the most open to change, the 32 year old Jokinen responded to the challenge quite well. The 'OMG' line was one of the most productive shut down lines in the NHL. Jokinen believes he can be even better. He now spends time studying the styles of Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg and even Ryan Kesler.
And it's not just Olli that is going to have to demonstrate consistency. The captain, despite having not played a single pre-season game, is going to have to step into the line up in mid-season form. Not exactly the fastest of starters, if this team is going to make headway in the division, especially against Vancouver, they are going to need Iginla to do what he does best, only sooner. On a good note, Jarome returned to the ice last week, and by all accounts, is good to go for the start of the season.
However, there may be one player that isn't quite ready for the regular season to get under way just yet. What would a day be like without some sort of opinion being tossed around about Matt Stajan? Lord knows enough has been said back and forth about the 27 year old centre, but the only opinion that really means anything is that of the head coach. So what did Brent have to say?
Ummm.. So what the Hell is that supposed to mean? I suppose it means that Sutter has been impressed enough not to send Stajan out on a bus to Abbotsford - which would pretty much ending any chance of him playing for the Flames ever again - but not enough to really declare Matt a functioning member of the 2011-12 edition of the team. I've been watching Matt, because I really thought he was going to have a bounce back year, especially with his summer training program with Gary Roberts. However, I just can't see it, and the interview he did during the intermission in the Coyotes game pretty much told me all what I needed to know. The guy still looks like he has zero confidence in his game. Like if he took his jersey off to cool down during intermission, they just might not give it back. He's not exactly inspiring confidence on the ice either. He's often out of position and seems late on the play a lot. Matt... It's still pre-season, and it already looks like you're going through the motions.
On the business side of Flames hockey, the team has found themselves in unfamiliar territory by not being a cap strapped team to start the season. Checking in over at Flames Jambalaya, Randy gets together a panel to discuss what, if anything, should be done with the $3.6 Million cap space the Flames find themselves with. Will Feaster be like a kid in a candy store, or take the position of Ebeneezer Scrooge, until the ghost of seasons past come a haunting?
It's my opinion that Feaster should by no means be in any rush to spend this money. We all saw what happened at free agency this summer; Jay should be in the position to spend a lot of money next season. The 3.6M , if kept until needed, might serve as a nice down payment on what many think will be a re-tooling.
On the flipside to the business coin, the decision might already be made for Feaster and company. Matchsticks and Gasoline's (now of the UofC Gauntlet) Justin Azevedo delves into the issue of the Flames close proximity to the NHL's 50 Standard Player Contract Limit. Does Calgary even have the ability to spend that 3.6 Mil? Jazzy will give you all the details.
Probably the most significant change the Flames have undertaken this year came off the ice. In an effort Feaster to competely redifine the organization's ideology, Feaster has shifted from Sutter's concetrated autocracy to a "participatory democracy". How does one go about doing this? Hire John Weisbrod away from the Stanley Cup Champions, that's how. Allan Maki's article in the Globe and Mail gives an insight into what is entailed in this directional change for not just the team, but the organization as a whole.
Seemed to work out okay for the Bruins... Many of us at Flames nation, myself included, have claimed, predicted and emphatically stated that this team is on the cusp of looking dramatically different after this season. Maki's article on Mr. Weisbrod seems to verify? Confirm?... Paint the picture of what we all have thought, if not hoped, was to come in the near future.
... DON'T SCREW THIS ONE UP KEN KING!